AFRICA GREAT LAKES REFLECTION: Taking the initiative from the actors of violence

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CPTnet
14 February 2009
AFRICA GREAT LAKES REFLECTION: Taking the initiative from the actors of violence

by Cliff Kindy

In violent settings, nonviolent activists need to re-frame the action so that they, rather than violent actors, hold the initiative.

The Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC) recently integrated rebels from the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) into the country’s military. President Kabila invited the Rwandan military to join an operation against militias of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Some FDLR are considered responsible for the Rwandan genocide and also control many of the mines in South and North Kivu Provinces. Planners hope this operation stops the conflict engulfing eastern DRC for fifteen years.

Monseigneur Jean-Luc Kuye, a Pentecostal pastor whom CPT met last week in Kinshasa, is president of the ecumenical Eglise du Christ de Congo in South Kivu. In 1998, when Rwanda invaded the Congo, Msgr Kuye asked, “What will we do? We are being re-colonized. How will we respond without more violence?”

Religious people across DRC are rebuilding the self confidence of groups within civil society. The church already provides the spiritual undergirding that carries people through difficult peacemaking.

World Relief is working in conflict areas to unite denominations and tribes. Then together they build homes for widows, and visit each month at prisons and hospitals. They have a “leading to see a church-led, grassroots, nonviolent movement in North Kivu.”

CPT has earlier recounted the roles of Quaker Ebenezer Peace Center, Catholic Pax Christi, and  Anglican Bishop Isingoma in nurturing peace actors who insert nonviolent initiatives into this cauldron of conflict. Mennonites played a key role in 2006 election training and observing.

Representing the church and with other church figures, Msgr Kuye provided leadership in a very difficult political process, at each step of a fragile seven-year dance. Facilitating national dialogue,   creating the new constitution, and saving the cliff-hanging signing of the Sun City Accords, this church leader was the prime facilitator in the midst of those struggles. Though opponents threatened his life, fear became a stimulus for creative nonviolent possibilities rather than an immobilizer.

As a church leader Msgr Kuye assisted the transitional DRC government in 2003. Later, in the national reconciliation process, Kuye received the assignment to talk with CNDP General Nkunda, and FDLR militias, to enable elections in 2006. This year Kuye traveled to Rome to ask FDLR leadership to stop fighting. Networks of nonviolent actors replaced violent actors who had dominated the scene earlier.

Kuye negotiated with the Council of Churches in Rwanda to smooth the return for demobilized FDLR  Norwegian Church Aid offered assistance as families re-establish themselves in Rwanda. This is the  process of converting violent actors by re-framing their activity. History is being defined by actors of nonviolence rather than actors of violence. There is clear recognition that all sectors of society are needed to solve the problems.

If this comprehensive nonviolent initiative works, it will usurp the joint military operation. The nonviolent campaign will define DRC history. People are ready for a change. Churches are leading the way.

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